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Future Energy Africa event ambassador: “An opportunity for decentralised renewable energy”

Pule Segale, Civil Engineer and Future Leader, World Energy Council

Exclusive interview with Pule Segale, Civil Engineer and Future Leader at the World Energy Council. He is also an ambassador for the upcoming editions of Future Energy East Africa and Future Energy Nigeria.

Can we start with some background on yourself and your role?
I am an alumnus of the University of Cape Town and specialised in Civil Engineering. My early career was in road construction, then steel and concrete structures. As an engineer in training or graduate, I figured it would be wise to consider different streams in Civil Engineering and then choose a career focus. My focus has been in the energy sector and I entered the renewable energy industry as a project engineer for the first concrete tower wind farm in Africa, that opened the market and the scope of work in my career. 

My current role is Owner Engineer; I oversee the construction of a wind energy project built by appointed contractors, and I report back to various stakeholders on the progress. 

Any exciting projects that you are currently involved in that you can share?
I have worked across the project life cycle of wind energy projects in Africa. The most exciting were projects outside of South Africa, where we were creating the market or making acquisitions of existing small developer projects. 

Currently, South Africa is booming with the latest delivery of RE projects and that is where my skills are being utilised. 

What, in your view, are the main challenges in the power sector in Kenya right now? And East Africa?
Kenya, and East Africa like other regions, has challenges in access and security of power because the existing centralised infrastructure is unable to reach all its communities. It is both impractical and unsustainable to have a power line connecting every home to a national grid. 

What, in your view, are the main opportunities currently?
There is an opportunity for decentralised renewable energy in a majority of developing regions, including East Africa. This may easily and largely be fuelled by solar technology, which can power everyday life needs and create jobs. 

What is your vision for this sector?
I believe there is tremendous growth in the energy sector, it is definitely an input to economic development. I envision an energy mix, powered by renewable energy, where consumers and governments alike, are able to think about energy access rather than electricity access, where we deploy the correct form of energy for the specific purpose, whereas all energy is not electricity. I envision decentralised renewable energy as a driving force in rural and peri-urban communities, and there are fewer barriers to renewable energy investment in developing markets. 

How important are Future Energy East Africa and Future Energy Nigeria as a meeting place for the sector?
East and West Africa alike need collaborative strategic partnerships to develop integrated energy systems in their regions. I am thinking of finance and business solutions in one room. The two events will bring together innovators, engineers and other professionals, making it a valuable engagement for the sector in 2019.  

What is your vision for the global industry?
Across the globe we are in the grand energy transition, the energy sector is led by the renewable energy industry. Investment is geared towards a cleaner and sustainable energy, but the industry in Africa still needs unlocking in order to reach its peak potential. I envision that the next generation of technology will be a big part of the industry, which will require major leaps and jumps in this region. 

Are you also involved joint projects with neighbouring countries?
Historically, I have been involved in projects both in East and West Africa; however, due to market constraints, my services in utility-scale renewable energy project delivery has been directed to South Africa. 

Annemarie Roodbol
Annemarie Roodbol is a communications practitioner based in Cape Town.